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10 Habits of the Happy

As recently as 10 years ago, the psychology of happiness was a foreign concept.

The UN Happiness Index didn't exist, the field of positive psychology had yet to gain ground and how-to guides on happiness were only beginning to take a slice out of the self-development sector.

Nowadays, we all know the proven principles of happiness. Practise gratitude, help others, get into nature and, if all else fails, fake it until you make it.

Happy people share traits and qualities which are diametrically opposed to unhappy people. Here are just a few of their habits.


1 They Take Responsibility for their Failures

Happy people tend to have an internal locus of control. They believe that they are in control of their own success and, following a knockback, they pinpoint their own shortcomings before they consider the possible prejudices of others.

Unhappy people, on the other hand, tend to point the finger outwards rather than inwards. When things don't go their way, they are quick to absolve themselves of all responsibility. If they failed an exam, it's because the paper was marked incorrectly. If they didn't get a job, it's because the candidate was earmarked from the outset.

2 They Role with the Punches

Happy people are more inclined to think of suffering as a universal experience, rather than a personal plight. They roll with whatever punches life may throw them. Conversly, unhappy people usually define themselves by the hardships they have suffered. They keep a mental dossier of all the trials and tribulations they have experienced and the perceived disadvantages that this renders them. This usually goes hand in hand with a belief that they deserve preferential treatment.

3 They are Thankful

They see the good and the positive in every person, event and moment. They are constantly expressing gratitude for these every day gifts. Their gratitude is infectious effecting all those around them. Unhappy people are generally chronic complainers with a vocabulary of spitfire adjectives ready to take aim at any moment. Deplorable service. Desperate weather. Despicable behaviour. Complaining tends to beget complaining, with some neuroscientists saying it can rewire the brain to make future complaining more likely.

4 They have an Abundance Mentality

Happy people are glass half full types. Problems are challenges containing potential to gain far more than to lose. In conflicts and disagreements they are more likely to settle for win-win settlements for both sides. Unhappy people tend to focus on what they don't have rather than what they do have. Even if they have an abundance of money and time, they remain attached to a lack-based narrative and a fear that they won't hold onto it for very long.

5 They Take the Road Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less travelled by, And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost

Happy people are prepared to make the sacrifices to follow their dreams. In remaining true to themselves and their life’s purpose they often go against the flow. Unhappy people usually take what looks like the easiest route. They stay in unhappy relationships because they fear change. They undertake the least taxing tasks firsts instead of delaying gratification. And they use short-term Band-Aid solutions - food, alcohol, drugs - to ease their pain rather than trying to identify the root of the issue.

6 They Know Happiness is an Inner State

Happy people know that happiness is a choice that is made every day, irrespective of circumstances. As Marianne Williamson writes: “ The Ego says 'Once everything falls into place, I'll feel peace.' The Spirit says, 'Find your peace, and then everything will fall into place.'" Unhappy people think of happiness as a place they will arrive at as soon as they have achieved x or acquired y


7 They Forgive and Let Go

Happy people know that grudges keep them anchored to the past and prevent them from moving forwards. Unhappy people tend to hold grudges. What's more, they often fail to realise that holding a grudge affects them more than the person they are holding a grudge against. As Annie Lamott put it: "Not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and then waiting for the rat to die."

8 They Believe Life is a Wonderful Adventure

The Sufi poet Rumi said that we should live life as though it is rigged in our favour. Nonethess, happy people know that life is inherently challenging. They rise to life’s challenges with an inner conviction that things will work out so long as they are true to their dreams, their life purpose. Unhappy people, on the other hand, live life as though it is pitted against them. They view situations through a filter of cynicism and the perception that their world is designed to present daily problems. This usually leads to apathy, which in turn becomes laziness.

9 They Compare Themselves with their Previous Selves

Happy people usually only compare themselves to their previous selves. As many a self-development writer has pointed out, comparison with others is a dead-end street. Believing you are lesser than someone else leads to despair; believing you are better than someone else leads to arrogance.

10 They Spend on Experiences not Possessions

Happy people are more inclined to spend their money on experiences – travel, sport, music, the arts - rather than tangible objects, which is proven to boost long-term happiness.

Unhappy people often try to boost their mood with regular impulse purchases, even if they can't necessarily afford them. Unfortunately the high is short-lived and, according to the hedonic-treadmill theory, a person will soon return to his happiness set-point.

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